Man films himself giving Nelson pet shop worker a hard time after being asked to sign contact tracing register

A Nelson man who clashed with an Animates staff member because the store was collecting customer information for contact tracing has been criticised after a video of the encounter was widely shared online.

However, Norm Collins has stuck to his guns after posting a video of the encounter on his YouTube page on May 13, saying he was only standing up for privacy rights.

In the video, Mr Collins questions a staff member at Animates Nelson about the need to collect personal information in order to enter the store, which he said violated his privacy.

The staff member told Mr Collins that they were only complying with government guidelines put in place after the move to Level 2.

"It is not my choice - I am following what my company has told me, and what they have been told by the Government," the staff member says.

The staff member told Mr Collins that if he didn't provide his contact information, he would not be able to shop instore, but would be able to shop online. She also referred him to the company's 0800 number if he wanted to lay a complaint.

Mr Collins can be heard comparing the staff member's stance to Nazi war criminals being tried in Nuremberg after World War II, some of which relied on a defence of having just been following orders.

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At the time the video was filmed, retail businesses were being asked to collect contact information from customers in order to assist with contact tracing in the event of a Covid-19 case.

The advice was changed on Saturday, with retail stores no longer being asked to collect that information.

Businesses in New Zealand are not under any legal obligation to provide service to an individual, although they cannot refuse on grounds of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other grounds.

Following publication of the video, it was shared widely, with many criticising Mr Collins' actions.

One commenter on the YouTube video wrote: "she did really well to deal with such a difficult lettucehead - I would not have been so polite".

Mr Collins did not respond to a request for comment from 1 NEWS, but did publish a follow-up video yesterday in which he explained his actions, saying he was acting in defence of personal privacy.

"Anyone who walked into that store could have looked at that ledger, taken a photograph of that ledger," Mr Collins said.

"I wasn't trying to be righteous and indignant - I was pissed off at the time, and sure, in hindsight I could have gone about it in a better way.

"I was standing up for everybody - shoot the messenger - that's fine - I'm standing up for not only my rights, but your rights as well."

Mr Collins apologised to the staff member involved, admitting that it was "not a good situation" to put someone in.

"I agree that the lady at the time was not put into a good situation - she was very professional and I take my hat off to her for that."

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Mr Collins seemed to regret comparing the staff member to a Nuremberg trial defendant in his follow-up video, calling it a "muck up" and saying he was "a little bit annoyed.

"The point I was making there was, out of the Nuremberg trials came the fact that breaching people's individual human rights in 'just doing your job' is no excuse," Mr Collins said.

"Rules are not laws, and when you're being asked to follow rules that breach people's individual privacy and their rights, then you need to be questioning the individuals who are asking you to."


In a statement, a spokesperson for Animates said: "Animates fully supports our staff member who was shaken by a person who confronted her on the matter of contact tracing.

"The safety and privacy of our customers, our staff and the general public is of the utmost importance to Animates.

"Animates followed the guidelines which were posted on the government Covid website at the introduction of Alert 2. The company immediately put in place a paper-based contact tracing for store entry country-wide while awaiting the QR code system.

"The government guidance on contact tracing for retailers evolved and we have adapted our processes accordingly, taking a conservative 'safety first' approach.

"This included making the signing of the contact register optional from last Saturday and the overwhelming feedback from customers was that they appreciated the steps we were taking to keep the public safe.

"Animates stores have subsequently now instructed all its stores to remove all contact registers. The information collected to date will be destroyed immediately.

"Animates is an early adopter of the government’s QR Code system which it is deploying today."


Retail NZ Chief Executive Greg Harford said that "it is disappointing that retail workers are being given a hard time about contact tracing requirements.

"It is not a breach of privacy to ask for customer details on entry to a store," Mr Harford said.

"However, retailers do need to be clear about the purpose of collecting that information, and make sure that it is kept secure and used only for the purposes it was gathered.

"If information is being collected, it is for the purposes of keeping New Zealanders healthy and preventing the spread of Covid-19.

"Retail stores are private property and retailers are free to set conditions of entry for their stores.

"Retail NZ is urging customers to be understanding, kind and polite to retail employees in store as we manage through the crisis."